New $25 million children and family support centre announced for Prince Rupert

The North Coast Community Services Society (NCCS) is set to receive up to $25,301,820 over five years to operate a centralized support centre for children who have special needs out of Prince Rupert, as part of a provincial pilot program, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) announced Jan. 9.

Services offered by the centre will include therapies and interventions for children, youth and their families, regardless of whether they have a diagnosis or referral, the Ministry of Children and Family Development stated in a press release. All children and youth, from newborns to 19-years-old will be able to access the services.

“The child and their family will have input into their wraparound care plan, which could include behaviour supports, physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, inclusive child care supports, child and youth care workers, family support, and education, as well as other important supports,” MCFD stated.

The non-profit has been granted a contract with the province to run the “family connections centre” for three years with two one-year extension options.

The center will provide for residents across the region, including those in Haida Gwaii.

“We are so happy that we’ll be able to provide more support to families,” Sherry Beal, executive director at the NCCS, said.

The Prince Rupert centre is one of just four locations in B.C. that are participating in the pilot. Two other locations in the northwest, Terrace/Kitimat and Bulkley Valley/Stikine will also be part of the program.

People who use the centres will have options for how they connect and receive the services, the B.C. government website states.

“The family connections centres will offer a blend of in-person, in-home, virtual, and satellite services to meet families where they are, and will include a range of service delivery types including both group and one-to-one services, based on the child or youth’s needs.”

The North Coast Community Services Society is still working to secure a space for the centre.

The province initially stated it would be opening 40 centres, however on Nov. 25, Premier David Eby announced a scale-back to only four pilot locations after a number of organizations voiced their concerns, including the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).

Part of the plan for the centres was to use them to replace individualized funding for children with autism, which the UBCIC opposed in May 2022. They also cited a lack of proper engagement with First Nations.

Eby responded with the November announcement that the province will maintain individualized funding for children and youth with an autism diagnosis, including those who are diagnosed in the future.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development also noted throughout the pilot the province will consult with parents and caregivers, Indigenous Peoples, communities, experts and other stakeholders to understand how to build a better system.

With files from Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Kaitlyn Bailey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View